The Dallas skyline grew smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror as I headed west on I-30, home to Fort Worth and my new self-employed life.
Nestled in the trunk were two small wicker baskets. It was strange to think that my nearly 10-year career at a global nonprofit could be contained in those two bins.
Exhilaration and relief washed over me.
I did it. I actually did it.
Oh sh*t … I did it. What had I done?!
Suddenly tears started streaming down my face, and I tried to choke down a sob. Oh. My. God. What was I thinking? Did I do the right thing? Why didn’t someone stop me?! Panic and fear suddenly erased the excitement from just moments before.
The lure of security
My decision to leave the “security” of a nonprofit job with good benefits and a flexible schedule had been five years in the making. I’d had a nudge to start my own business. Several, actually. I’d worked with a couple of career coaches. I’d tried leaving the organization to work for a startup, and then returned. I’d taken on new roles, climbed the corporate ladder, gotten significant salary increases and bigger titles. But something was missing.
I was missing.
The higher I climbed, the less me I felt. I finally had a coveted seat at the big kids’ table with folks from the C-Suite, but when I looked around, I had a massive realization: I did not want to be there.
At first I thought maybe it was imposter syndrome -- I didn’t deserve to be there. But that wasn’t it. I felt caged and like I was playing the part of someone else.
Shocked into action
About that time, my ex-husband’s mother died unexpectedly. We were all shocked and heartbroken. She had been like a second mother to me.
That was the catalyst that made me really take a hard look at where I was and what I was doing.
I had stalled long enough. It was time to jump.
Somehow I discovered Jen Sincero’s book, You are a Badass. I felt like it had been written for me. Everything resonated. I read it from cover to cover, and then I read it again. One of the biggest takeaways from Jen’s book was her advice to invest in a life coach. So I did.
Put me in, Coach
I found Carrie through a Google search. Like me, she was a single mom and had made a leap to relocate to Colorado from Dallas. She had been a trained therapist before moving into the coaching world. We had an introductory session, and we clicked immediately. I knew she was the one who could help me.
I signed on for a three-month coaching package. I’d never spent that much money for personal development -- I took money out of my retirement fund to pay for my sessions. Because I had so many previous stops and starts, I knew if I forked over that kind of money, I would be forced to move forward.
It was the best investment I could have made for myself. I hatched my escape plan and set a date to start my new life: June 1, 2018. My actual birthday.
Leap of faith
The biggest thing Carrie and I worked on was making the brave leap. She constantly reassured me: “When you step out in faith, the Universe will rush in to meet you.” That became my mantra (and still is an anchor for me).
I cried. A lot. I was scared as hell. What if this didn’t work? What if I failed? What if I couldn’t make enough money to support my daughter?
Despite the fear, I kept moving forward. I set up my LLC. I got liability insurance. I gave my notice to my boss. I had a logo made and business cards printed. And I started meeting everyone I knew for coffee dates and lunch.
Learning to fly
I got my first client at the beginning of July. My second came a few weeks later. I wish I could tell you that it just snowballed from there. It was more like a gradually increasing stream.
I landed a big contract in September and some smaller gigs here and there. I was making enough to barely cover my expenses. I’d run through my savings, and, in November, I had to borrow money because I had no income coming in that month.
I was really stressed out and doubting whether or not I had made the right decision.
And then things started to pick up again. I had my best month in December, and May is on track to be a high grossing month. I have three monthly retainer clients. I know from experience that July may be slow, because summer. That’s been one of the biggest adjustments – not having a regular paycheck. It’s taught me about letting go of control and trusting I’ll be OK. And the importance of saving so I have a cushion to carry me through slower months.
A hella good year
I’ve worked with 10 different clients in the last year doing everything from running PR campaigns to developing and implementing an employee engagement survey. I’ve worked with national and local nonprofits, two global companies and several small businesses.
I’ve met a whole world of other entrepreneurs and risk-takers.
I spoke at a national conference for nonprofit communicators.
I get to set my own hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.!) and choose the types of clients I work with.
I pick my daughter up from school every day when she gets out at 4:30 p.m.
I’ve learned to live more simply and have readjusted my value system. I’ve redefined what success means to me.
I’m more present and focused. My daughter says I’m happier. I am happier.
I’m spending the summer in Costa Rica because I can.
I’ve learned to trust myself.
Most of all, I’ve found me.
Would I do it again? Yes, 100 percent, absolutely, yes.
For anyone out there who is on the fence about taking the leap, know that you can, too.
Is it challenging? You bet … and incredibly rewarding. The world is full of possibilities, you just have to step out in faith.